Scottish painter, musician and printmaker, Davie trained at Edinburgh College of Art from 1937. After military service with the Royal Artillery, he spent a period working as a professional Jazz pianist, travelling widely in Europe. In the early 1940s, he saw paintings of Jackson Pollack in Peggy Guggenheim's collection in Venice, which informed his own mythical imagery and forceful painterly gestures.
His first one-man exhibition was in 1950 with Gimpel Fils, London. From 1953-1956 Davie taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and won the Gregory Fellowship at Leeds University, 1956-1959, during which time he visited New York.
Davie's interest in other cultures led to his conversion to Zen Buddhism. He advocated painting being created intuitively. His work has seen wide acclaim; a large exhibition at FBA Galleries, London, and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1962 and a one-man exhibition in the British section of VII Biennale at Săo Paulo, Brazil in 1963.
Davie was honoured by the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh (HRSA), 1977, and became a senior fellow of the Royal College of Art in 1991. His works are held in numerous public and private collections, including the Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland.